Syria’s children ‘at risk of never fully recovering’, new study finds
- New report reveals the extent of daily hardships Syrian children face
- Funding and focus must go beyond just helping children survive, we must help them thrive through education, says aid agency
MISSISSAUGA, Ont. - As Syria’s complex and dire conflict rages into year eight, at what point will daily stress factors become too much for children and have an irreversible impact on their long-term emotional, cognitive and physical well-being?
World Vision surveyed over 1200 girls and boys in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan who have been directly affected by the crisis and the overwhelming response when it came to their hope for the future was education. Thousands of children have been out of school for several years, making an entire generation of Syrian children at risk of becoming a lost generation. In times of crisis, young girls are 2.5 times more likely to be out of school, and are the most vulnerable to violence, trafficking and harmful practices such as early and forced marriage.
“Children told us of moving to new places, living in confined spaces, attending different schools, not going to school at all and missing family members and friends who were once part of their lives,” says Wynn Flaten, World Vision’s Syria Crisis Response Director.
The survey also found that in Syria, 50 per cent of children have experienced domestic violence. In Lebanon, 39 per cent and in Jordan, 15 per cent of children surveyed talked of violent discipline in the home. Of those who attend school in Syria, 42 per cent have witnessed violent discipline by teachers and other school staff.
“Home and school life are the very places children should be and feel most safe,” says Lindsay Gladding, World Vision’s Humanitarian and Emergency Affairs Director. “Instead, children are not only experiencing their own stress but are also often bearing the brunt of family stress. Alarmingly, we found many children consider such ‘stressors’ to be a normal aspect of their new lives.”
While these statistics are alarming, our experience shows that the reverse is also true. Education can help children overcome their traumas and can restore a sense of hope.
The report identifies clear areas that donors and governments can prioritise now that will have lasting effects on their futures, and concludes that the right political, programmatic and funding investments today will limit the legacy of Syria’s violence on families, especially the children who are bearing the brunt of this conflict.
With Canada hosting the upcoming G7 Summit in June, World Vision is looking ahead to Charlevoix as an opportunity for Canada to demonstrate continued leadership in education on the global stage, particularly around education for girls in crises. World Vision, along with other Canadian and global partners, are calling upon the Prime Minister to lead a signature policy initiative at the upcoming G7 to bring urgent political attention to this severely neglected issue. A Canadian-led G7 Declaration to Educate and Empower Girls in Crises would chart a bold course forward for its feminist foreign policy and promote positive change for millions of children, including Syrian girls in such a protracted crisis.
“Despite all they have faced, and continue to face every day, Syria’s children are a source of hope for the country’s future. But there is a risk that they may never fully recover from this conflict. We must act now making extreme efforts to care, protect and value all children’s lives if we are to disrupt this potential legacy,” said Gladding.
Note to editors:
- Link to Beyond Survival report here
- Link to video vignettes of seven child journalists here
- More than 5.5 million Syrians have fled the country, and half of them are children. Another six million have left their homes in search of safer spaces inside Syria, according to the UN.
- Overcrowded housing is prevalent in all three countries (Jordan, Lebanon and Syria). Over 70 per cent of all children we spoke to live in overcrowded housing. These children are twice as likely to experience violence at home, and they expressed more uncertainty and nervousness about their schoolwork and ability to learn than children living in better housing.
- In Syria, 50 per cent of children said they had experienced domestic violence. In Lebanon, 39 per cent and in Jordan,15 per cent of children surveyed talked of violent discipline in the home.
- Children in each country highlight different stressors, which means that programs to address their needs must be context specific, culturally appropriate and adapted to their environments.